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I guess I just like liking things

The Wonderful 101 was supposed to be one of the Wii U’s launch titles. After playing this game, had it launched with the console, there could have been a lot more buzz around the launch line up. This game is a twisted mix of a B-movie alien invasion, brawler, and oddly enough Pikmin.

The game opens to a pretty lengthy scene on a school train, picture a school bus on a mag-lev track, that serves both as early tutorial and introduction to the “main” character. That’s in quotes because though Wonder Red is the focus of a lot of the story, you’ll be building out a team as you play through the game. Each of the “leader” characters of the titular super hero groups leads an archetype tied to one of the “unite attacks.” You invoke these by drawing a shape with the stylus or the right stick. There’s unlockable abilities that add to this, which leads to a pretty steep learning curve.

The thing about the difficulty curve is that it’s inherent in the unique concept of the game. It isn’t as easy to pick up and play as many games, but that complexity leads to the depth of gameplay the game has. The brawler part of the game is pretty complex, each of the enemies you face has a pattern you’ll need learn to defend for a swift counter attack. The game doesn’t do a great job of explaining the strategy needed to deal with larger packs of enemies. That leads to a lot of trial and error, especially trying to figure out block and dodging combinations. Loathe as I am to say this, but if you are having some trouble you can check out this video on You Tube. In fact that guys has a whole series that shows exactly how deep the rabbit hole can go on combat in this game.

The story doesn’t hide its weirdness, it’s all there up front in all it’s b-movies glory. In addition to Wonder Red, there are six other Wonder characters. You’ll keep getting new character through about 3/4’s of the game, their new skills take focus in the level. Like Wonder Yellow joins the team on a crashing shuttle and you use his Unite Hammer to break through the floor, and his attacks is needed to make some enemies vulnerable to normal attacks. The enemy aliens are a bit more generic, there are space pirates called GethJerk. They’re a pretty generic band of mustache twirlers lead by a prince that can match your unite powers. The Wonderful 100 are backed up by a ship called the Virgin Victory filled with another cast of characters. The game is meant to evoke comics books and manga, but it feels more like a 60’s monster movie, not to say that’s a bad thing.

Though it sold me on a Wii U early on, mainstream players may not find a lot to excite them. However if you’re a fan of deep design and are just waiting for Smash Bros, you should grab a Wii U early to play this (and the Wind Waker remake). If you have a Wii U, you should grab this as it’s a game that really shows off that the system is capable of producing interesting games. I am not sure if you can say that the ship has sailed on the Wii U as a mainstream device, but Wonderful 101 proves that it could easily slide into the same kind of role the Gamecube did. That system had a lot of odd gems that became classics. You know, I would be okay with that.

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